I’m sure most of use seldom wonder why dogs wag their tail. I mean, I think we probably all just attribute it to their happiness. But tail wagging is actually a complex form of communication.
As pack animals, dogs learn a method of communication through wagging their tails. They also use many different types of body postures and vocalizations as a type of language. However, the tail is extremely expressive and an important part of the body posture. In a recent study, it was found that dogs with docked or naturally short tails were more likely to get into fights than dogs with long tails. Since different messages can be conveyed when wagging the tail, longer tails are more easily seen and interpreted by other dogs.
A friendly dog will communicate his feelings by loosely wagging his tail. Dominant or aggressive dogs may wag their tail, but the tail is held high and maybe just the tip of the tail is moving rapidly. A playful dog will also hold his tail high but it will be wagging greatly from side to side. A dog that holds his tail low and wags it stiffly may be indicating he is submissive or afraid.
It’s important to remember that the tail is just one part of the dog’s way of communicating. Be sure to look at its body language, head position, ears and eyes and hackles to better understand what the dog may be wanting to express. And when you’re sure it’s happiness, smile back and give them lots of love!